Stealth Watch Arrives

Posted by MarkAZ on April 21, 1998 at 20:54:49:

Occasionally I have the opportunity to entertain a young lady who happens to be a professional model. One evening while we were enjoying a nice dinner, she confided that while yet eating one meal, she would fantasize about the next. Though sympathetic with her need to stay slender, I still wondered if she wasn't a little nuts. Now the shoe is on the other foot. While waiting for my latest watch purchase to arrive, I was busy picking the next.

The watch: Revue-Thommen Airspeed Automatic Chronograph, black dial, titanium bracelet and case.

WARNING: Subjective opinion follows. Some comments may be "tongue-in-cheek". YMWV.

The Bad:

  1. Stealth characteristics. This is not a flashy watch; dull Ti finish and matt black dial. That is as expected. I did not expect it to be *completely invisible* to females.
  2. As others here have noted, the counterbalances on the (central) chrono seconds and chrono minutes hands are long enough to obscure the main hours hand. I think R-T went too far in retaining the look of aircraft instrumentation. The shape of these hands is identical to those of several aircraft panel chronographs I have. I don't think a wrist chrono needs as much counterbalance. This will be corrected the first time the case is opened.

The Mixed Bag:

  1. The bracelet is well made and secure (link pins very snug). But the style is too busy for my tastes, and doesn't really match the style of the case. I'm sure the watch will look great on a black band.
  2. The Tritium powered phosphors are very dim. As this is a fairly new model, I don't think this is a shelf-life problem. My guess is that Tritium is coming under more and more regulation especially in Europe, and watch makers are using less of it. Experience suggests that because of its short half-life, the useful life of Tritium coatings is less than 10 years. Watches that use the vials may be exceptions.

The Good:

  1. All titanium. The reduced "throw weight" keeps it from sliding around as much as steel. My girlfriend picked up the R-T after handling an 18k Zenith and commented on its lightness. "It's titanium" I said. She smiled brightly, feigning interest, and asked "Is that some new kind of plastic?"
    Oh, well.
  2. The "fit & finish" is on par with Ti Seamasters. The back is finely relieved with the usual text, serial number, and the image of a helicopter(!). The clasp is a deployant style with safety catch and though well made, I rate it slightly below the Omega's.
  3. Lemania 5100 with day and date. Justin Time considers this movement "entry level" for chronos and I think that is a fair characterization. However, with its central chrono minutes and chrono seconds hands, and its 24hr. sub dial, there should be room for a 5100 based watch in any chronograph collection. I really like the 24hr. display, and like George Chow, I find the chrono display vastly more readable than the typical design. Not everyone finds this so.
  4. Sapphire crystal with anti-reflection coating inside and out. I greatly prefer sapphire for a daily wear watch. This one is raised about a half mm above the bezel. I have experience with a-r coatings and find the down-side trivial, though the benefits are only a little above trivial. Thanks to Walt Odets, we know how to safely remove the exterior coating once it becomes too marred to bear.
  5. Clunky, but not too clunky. Subjectively, this is the most compact L5100 based watch I have seen. Per R-T, mass = 62gr, height = 14.8mm, diameter = 38.5mm. It's about 42mm wide at the crown and about 46mm lug to lug. It takes a 20mm band. Downright feminine compared to an AP RO. Also, the shape of the lugs and pushers gives the case a nicely retro look.
  6. Somewhat obscure marque with an aerospace tie-in. I was familiar with Revue-Thommen long before I saw their watches. I used to handle R-T aircraft instruments, and have one of their GMT panel clocks on top of my computer screen.
  7. Dial, hands, legibility. Mat black dial with bright white markings and hands. The luminous coating is white, not pale green in ambient light. "Day glo" red-orange chrono hands. Better looking than it sounds and very readable in low light. Good registration of the hands.
    Under magnification, you can see that the luminous coating is not perfectly aligned with the white paint, but is within its borders. Also, the subdials are recessed and engine-turned, a nice touch. I'm near sighted and still can't see the turnings without a loupe. The day and date windows are recessed and beveled. Again, a nice touch.
    The minute/second track is not subdivided even though this mechanism has a theoretical resolution of one-eighth second. I don't think sub-half-second resolution is meaningful on a mechanical chronograph anyway, and you'd need more than three significant digit validity on measurements above one minute to use it. Also, the track resides on the angled (actually conical) spacer between the dial and crystal, which is where it belongs on a watch like this.
  8. Useful, non-ugly bezel. I generally avoid rotating bezels as I find them of extremely limited usefulness, and they are usually so wide they ruin the proportions of the watch. This one is different. It is relatively narrow and does not use an insert - another plus. The markings are deeply struck into the bezel itself and thus can't wear off.
    Here's the useful part: It is completely backwards from a "diver's" bezel. It rotates in the other direction, and the numbers are in the reversed order. This makes it a count-down timer which compliments the chronograph count-up timer. R-T calls it a "pilot's" rotating bezel. Suppose I have to do something in 17 minutes. I spin the bezel until the minute hand points at 17. I don't have to remember what time it was, or the 17 minutes, just watch for the minute hand to line-up with the pointer.
  9. Value. Mid level quality and features at the very bottom of the price range.

The Miscellaneous:

  1. Not noisy, not quiet. The rotor does not rattle, but you can easily hear it work the winding ratchet in a quiet room. The fast beat "tica-tica" is like music. I'm surprised that the titanium doesn't dampen out the sounds more.
  2. Seven removable links and five sets of holes in the clasp. I took out six links and didn't move the clasp for my ~16.5 cm wrist.
  3. Accuracy out of the box: approximately +4 sec per day fully wound. I'll see when it settles down.
  4. The photo of this watch in the R-T catalog is evidently that of a mock-up, or a re-production prototype. The hands and dial look much better "in the flesh".
  5. Covered chipboard outer box in blue and white with gold stamping on top. Vinyl or leather(?) covered inner box in blue and white, gold stamped inside and out. Lined with same material.
  6. No instruction manual per se. International warranty certificate in vinyl folder. "World Service" locations include one in the U.S., so I don't think warranty will be an issue even if this watch is gray market. Besides, R-T is on record that they will honor their warranty regardless of source.

P.S. I wrote all of the above before wearing the watch to work. I'm a contractor to Nellis AFB, and sometimes work on the flight line. The R-T is definitely *not* invisible to military pilots. An F-15 pilot asked "Hey, is that a Sinn?" from ten feet away. He invited me to join two Strike Eagle crews in the squadron's snack bar for a break. Of their four watches, there were three Sinn and a Breitling Emergency (with the military frequency no less). Evidently, the Sinn 157.Ti is the unofficial watch of the squadron. They have friends stationed in Germany who send them over.

Thanks for reading,
MarkAZ

 



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